HOLLYWOOD - The ABC mini-series "Dreamkeeper" made its premiere June 20 at the Native American Journalist Association (NAJA) Convention in Green Bay, Wis. Native journalists were the first to see this ambitious TV movie that has been in the making for the last two years.
Poster boards of the Native actors who appear in the film lined the Wolf auditorium. ABC/Hallmark Entertainment held a luncheon and began with a two-minute preview of "Dreamkeeper." Excitement filled the air during the three-hour screening that night.
ABC media relations representative Lauren Tobin said, "Better to start with NAJA, in terms of spreading the word and increasing awareness that the movie is coming, with journalists who actually are Native. We're trying to do a grass roots effort and reach all the various tribes and the various nations of Native people as well as mainstream audiences."
"Dreamkeeper" will air on ABC in the winter of 2003. It is a coming of age story about a young Native American teen and the legendary tales that have been passed down through the generations as told to him by his grandfather.
The filming of "Dreamkeeper" lasted 135 days and the production covered 21 months beginning in the summer of 2002. The cast and crew traveled throughout Canada, New Mexico, Arizona, and South Dakota and logged more than 10,000 miles, used 750 horses as well as 1,500 buffalo.
Fifteen Native American and Canadian advisors served as consultants on the production to provide accurate language, dialect and costume design. Twenty-five hundred Native people worked on this production and there are 95 speaking roles including the 600 Canadian extras in the final pow wow sequence at the end of the mini-series. The cast includes Gil Birmingham, Sheila Tousey, Tantoo Cardinal, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Michael Greyeyes, Alex Rice, Delanna Studi and Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse.
Tobin added, "It's an important cultural story and it's a family story. We all have families, we all have family traditions and at the end of the day that's what it's really, really about."
The 10 legends told by Old Pete Chasing Horse, played by August Schellenberg, reach far into several tribes and there are 450 special effect sequences weaved from the past into a modern day road trip taken by a grandfather and his grandson, Shane Chasing Horse played by Eddie Spears. It is grandpa's wish to reach the "Nations" pow wow and tell his stories in Albuquerque, N.M.
The two-part TV mini-series has great moments with its spiritual visual effects; from the stampeding buffalo and wild running horses to the flocks of black crows and a gigantic serpent. The legends come alive with stunning beauty through the cold winter in Montana, the desert heat of New Mexico, the wild rivers of the Pacific Northwest and the main Vision Quest sought by Eagle Boy.
The best acting performance here belongs to August Schellenberg who is unrecognizable under his make up. He is a veteran of at least 50 TV and movie roles including the popular "Free Willy" family trilogy of films. Schellenberg shines as grandpa whose only wish is to hand down the stories of his people to the next generation.
Schellenberg gives a remarkable and touching performance as an elder who has seen the strength of his Native people through the legends handed down to him. A strength that shines through an excellent TV mini-series called "Dreamkeeper."